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CBD for Athletes: What athletes need to know about using CBD

Updated: May 19, 2023

No matter what the sport or training methodology, athletes put a lot of strain and stress on their bodies. The stress on the body during training stimulates adaptation, increased performance but can also cause physical trauma which can lead to injuries and pain.

Strongmen, Olympic weightlifters and power-lifters all lift very heavy weights during training blocks whereas endurance athletes such as runners, swimmers, cyclists and triathletes train at high volume and low intensity. Throughout the wide spectrum of athletes: recovery is key, not only to help grow muscle mass, increase aerobic capacity or to get stronger but recovery helps prepare the body for the next training session, whether the next day or the next hour.

Can CBD help weightlifters recover?
Can CBD help weightlifters recover?

Founder of, edurance coach for many Crossfit games champions and former all American swimmer, ironman athlete and all-round good dude, Chris Hinshaw says that a huge part of fitness is the ability to recover. Not only from workout to workout but even during workouts. Resting times in workouts can make the difference between winning and losing in Crossfit competitions such as the Games.

During training, many athletes rely on over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or paracetemol which can often pose somewhat of a risk to overall health. When new products that claim to offer inflammatory and pain relief benefits, curiosity peaks and athletes are eager to learn more about the claims associated with CBD.

Can athletes have CBD?

CBD is legal in most countries around the world, including the UK and most of the US. As of January 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from the list of banned substances with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) doing the same.

However, it is useful to note that it was just CBD that was removed from the list of prohibited substances and the psychoactive component of cannabis plants, THC, still remains on the banned list in addition to synthetic cannabinoids.

For further information on regulations and rules set by WADA, take a look at the WADA 2019 Prohibited List.

How CBD can help athletes?

As mentioned in our CBD introduction blog, we outlined that cannabinoids already exist in your body and cannabidiol (CBD) supplements or increases the activity of your body's existing endocannabinoid system.

As athletes, the greater stress and strain on your body the more pain and inflammation you experience, which can sometimes be too much for your endocannabinoid system. By consuming extra CBD, your body may be able to handle the additional stress on your body and bring your body back to homeostasis, aiding recovery.

Can CBD help runners recover?
Can CBD help runners recover?

Benefits of CBD for Athletes

Here are the 6 best benefits of CBD for athletes:

  • Pain relief - With limited research on CBD specifically, CBD does appear to relieve pain effectively for many athletes. Cannabis is effective in reducing pain and reducing stiffness from exercise as shown in Halawa, Omar I., et al's study , “Role of Cannabinoids in Pain Management.”

  • Alternative to Over-the-counter drugs - With the associated risks for anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen now being highlighted in media, CBD offers an alternative that could offer the same results with less risk of major health concerns and a reduction in adverse side effects.

  • Reduction in Opioid usage - Many athletes rely on opioids to reduce pain or to manage long term pain, CBD offers an effective alternative without the high risk of addition or death by overdose. However, it is shown that CBD may not offer the same strength as opioids for pain relief but it does offer less risk of dependence or accidental death.

  • Reduction in inflammation - Whilst some inflammation can stimulate improved recovery, too much can harm performance and recovery. CBD bind with CB2 receptors that offer anti-inflammatory effects by reducing cytokine production.

  • Gut relief - If gut inflammation is a problem for athletes, especially during or after exercise, CBD could help relieve inflammation in the small and large intestines and reduce discomfort.

  • Improved Sleep - With sleep being one of the essential factors in health and athlete recovery, CBD can help athletes get to sleep and have a deeper and more restful night.

As the product range expands and with more companies and websites (like this one) exploring CBD, the benefits for athletes will become clearer and athletes will feel safer and more trusting when using CBD.

The boom of CBD interest in the UK and the US could be a major factor that improves recovery in the athlete-sphere across many sports. With the research around CBD still at a fairly immature stage, there is still a lot to learn about the many benefits of CBD and its products.


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